Federal law prohibits the sale, transportation, and import of controlled substances such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. While state law also criminalizes drug trafficking, federal investigations are often better funded and more extensive. Federal processes also tend to result in much more severe penalties, which is in part due to the fact that courts are required to use minimum sentence guidelines when it comes to federal drug offenses. The stakes are especially high in federal lawsuits, so it is critical that you hire an experienced federal crime attorney who can help you formulate your defense if you are under investigation or have been charged with inter-state drug trafficking.
Federal drug charges
Drug trafficking is prohibited by state and federal law. Whether a person is charged with a federal crime depends on a number of factors, including:
- If the drug was of high quality and was being distributed in large quantities
- If the criminal organization was operating on a large scale
- If the distribution involved interstate commerce
- If the crime occurred on federal property
- The role of the person in the organization
- If other crimes were committed by the accused or organization
Although federal law prohibits the distribution of a variety of controlled substances, almost all cases involve one of the following six:
- Cocaine crack
- Cocaine powder
When individuals are found to be in possession of a large quantity of one of these types of substances, the investigators assume that their distribution was involved leading to drug trafficking charges. For example, if a person was found between 500 and 4,999 grams of a cocaine mixture, he or she can be charged in federal court for drug trafficking. First-time defendants of this crime face a prison sentence of at least 5 years and a fine of at least $ 2 million.
The prison terms imposed on those who have been convicted of federal drug trafficking tend to be much more severe than their state counterparts. Although judges have a certain degree of discretion during sentencing, they are also required to remain within the limits of the predetermined minimum guidelines established by Congress. However, before deciding on a sentence, judges are empowered to evaluate the following factors:
- The type and amount of drugs seized by law enforcement officers
- The size of the distribution area
- If the defendant used a weapon
- If the accused was in a position of power within the organization or was only a minor participant
- If the defendant has a criminal record
- If anyone else was injured during the commission of the crime
- If the organization’s distribution network crossed state lines.
If the evaluation of these factors is favorable, the judge may be willing to convict the accused within the lowest range of the minimum sentence guidelines.
Call an Experienced Federal Criminal Lawyer Today
If you were arrested for drug trafficking, feel free to contact the legal team at Jeffrey S. Weiner, PA Criminal Defense Lawyers by calling (305) 670-9919 for a free consultation. Our Miami attorneys are eager to help you today.